“The role of the writer is not a rigid position and depends on the state of the health of the writer’s society. In other words, if a society is ill, the writer has a responsibility to point it out…” — Chinua Achebe
Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency is a lawless, callous, morally repugnant, incompetent and cerebrally deficient presidency. If you needed recent evidence to back this assertion, his dour and dismal interview with Arise news on Thursday morning couldn’t have come any sooner.
The increasingly fascist Buhari struggles to understand and deal with Nigeria’s ethnic and political complexities. His disdain for democratic processes, disregard for the rule of law, fanatical sectionalism and nepotism, as well as his bid to be Nigeria’s Strongman despite his obvious senility and incompetence, all pose a lethal threat to Nigerian democracy and an existential danger to Nigerians.
Under his snowballing fascism, we’ve had the unfortunate Lekki Massacre perpetrated by members of the Nigerian Army, a militarist and unlawful occupation of the south-east region, a systematic shrinking of the country’s civic space, a weakening of our political institutions, an abysmal press freedom record, and now, the suspension of Twitter in the country — a glaringly unconstitutional act as posited in the excerpt of Nigeria’s democratic constitution below.
Every person shall be entitled to own, establish, and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions — Section 39 (2), Nigerian Constitution (1999)
The latest fascist act to restrict Nigerians’ access to the microblogging platform, Twitter, on the internet, is one fascist move too many. But we can resist Buhari and we must in fact start moving the needle to resist him, especially as it is no longer news that Nigeria’s nascent democracy is not designed to withstand the damage that an unscrupulous president with no self-control can unleash.
Low Hanging Fruits
The movement to resist Buhari must be democratic, utilizing the country’s laws and already weakened institutions to create a defense against his fascist tactics — we can take a leaf from the activities of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and ensure we either support them or instead, we flock into that particular resistance space that they (SERAP) have pioneered, in our numbers in the defense of Nigeria’s fragile democracy.
On the grassroots level, we should scale up voter education and advocacy work and push towards registering millions of eligible Nigerians to vote ahead of the 2023 general elections, while supporting civil rights groups like WeVote to keep fighting voter restrictions that may keep millions of eligible Nigerians from the polls.
Protest is an essential part of our democratic life and is enshrined in our 1999 constitution — despite the fatal outcomes of the October ENDSARS nationwide protests, particularly the unfortunate Lekki Massacre, for which Buhari is largely responsible, we must continue to protest, both physically and virtually. Sit-ins, physical marches, stay-at-home protests, industrial strikes, online activism, national and state assembly blockades, mass-calls to our representatives/senators in the national assembly, international advocacy via our diaspora, tax resistance, occupations and boycotts. We have every tool available to us to resist Buhari and his fascism. We can and must employ these tools as we resist.
Today, the 12th day of June 2021, on Democracy Day, Nigerians in Nigeria and in the diaspora are coming out en masse to peacefully protest Buhari’s repressive regime. Whatever happens, and at the risk of the loss of lives and mass incarceration, it is the first of the many dedicated steps that Nigerians must take to resist Buhari’s exacerbating fascism and to defend our frail democracy. It is unfortunate that in trying to exercise our inalienable fundamental human rights regarding the freedom to assemble and protest that is protected by the 1999 Nigerian constitution, we have succumbed to the eventuality that our lives are at grave risk, which shouldn’t be the norm. This is in fact symptomatic of the fascist state that we have snowballed into, thus, providing sufficient qualitative evidence as to why we must resist Buhari with everything we have.
Democracy is not just a question of having a vote. It consists of strengthening each citizen’s possibility and capacity to participate in the deliberations involved in life and in society. — Fernando Cardoso
I am confident that Nigerians can stand up to Buhari and his emboldening fascism. We must, however, not take anything for granted. It depends on what we do now and the ensuing months, thus, we must come to the conclusion that this resistance is a long game and not come to naively expect quick wins. It will undoubtedly require a lot of effort from us, as Nigerians, and we must be ready to unselfishly put in the work.
Recurrently, we must continue to attest to the fact that these civil liberties’ infractions, media clampdowns, and illegal behaviors by Buhari’s regime are abnormal. This is because resisting emboldening fascism and dictatorships is as much a psychological battle as they are legal, civic and people-based battles for the sanctity and sacredness of fragile democracies. Just as we have now been accustomed to accepting the abnormal from Buhari’s government, we mustn’t normalize the abnormalities that are posited by the Strongman government, not one bit.
If we do not resist, we will adjust and then normalize; if we continue to adjust and normalize, we will lose our democracy and devolve into the largest fascist regime contemporary Africa has ever seen.
Basil Abia is the author of the forthcoming book After the Revolution, what next? (2021)